Examining the Potential Inclusion of Adaptive Sport in the NCAA
thesisposted on 22.05.2021, 10:27 by Erik Robeznieks
Executive Summary: The central research question of this study is to investigate if there is a case for the inclusion of adaptive sport in the NCAA. This study is important because of issues of equity, the sociocultural perceptions of disability and adaptive sport, the physical, social, psychological, and societal benefits of sport participation, and recent education and employment-population ratio statistics in the United States. Supporting this central question are five inquiries (the dependent variables of the study): What are the barriers and challenges for collegiate adaptive sport? What are the growth opportunities for collegiate adaptive sport? What are goals for the future of collegiate adaptive sport? What are integration strategies for collegiate adaptive sport in the NCAA? Is sport a major life activity? Based on the literature, four themes stand out regarding the advancement of collegiate adaptive sport. First, there are legal aspects such as Title IX, the Rehabilitation Act, and Americans with Disabilities Act that shape the current landscape of collegiate adaptive sports. Second, the greatest momentum for change in the NCAA could come from institutions and conferences taking a leadership role in championing change and pressuring the interdependent network of the NCAA. Third, the experience of females in collegiate athletics could be used to understand some of the challenges for adaptive sport and the top-down initiatives that could help the growth of adaptive sport. Fourth, the advancement of adaptive sport will require change in the current system and the critical change factor model by Fay (1999) can be used as a framework to understand what change factors could be effective. The research question was examined through qualitative interviews with stakeholder groups affiliated with the landscape of collegiate adaptive sport. These groups included collegiate adaptive sport athletes (A), collegiate adaptive sport staff (B), athletic department staff (C), and external organizations (e.g. national governing sport bodies) (D). The interviews were thematically analyzed to yield key themes and recommendations as they pertained to the dependent variables. There were 38 participants in the study with 3, 21, 8, and 6 people from groups A through D respectively. NCAA status for adaptive sport was found to be a desirable goal for the future and there are frameworks that can make it possible (e.g. the ECAC Inclusive Sport model). However, there must be a critical mass of adaptive sport athletes, a growth of and greater concentration of programming at the collegiate level and more purposeful and effective support from the top-down. Recommendations for how stakeholders could collaborate to grow adaptive sport at the collegiate level include: • Invest in K to 12 adaptive sport programming • Educate senior leaders of institutions and organizations about disability and adaptive sport • Create a resource guide for NCAA institutions for adaptive athlete recruitment and training • Develop an “Emerging Adaptive Sports” program in the NCAA • Create a Senior Disability or Inclusion Administrator designation for athletic departments • Expand on the ECAC Inclusive Sport Principles 1 through 3 to other conferences • Implement able-body inclusion and consider coed teams in collegiate wheelchair basketball Recommendations for future research include examining effects of K-12 programming on participation levels in adaptive sport, adaptive athlete perceptions of able-body participation in adaptive sport, the appropriate number of sponsors for an “Emerging Adaptive Sports” program, the qualitative and quantitative impact that collegiate adaptive sports programs have on their institutions, further research on sport as a major life activity, adaptive athlete experiences on coed teams, and key leader perceptions (e.g. Athletic Directors) of disability and adaptive sport.